Myths vs Scientific Facts
Ask the average 40-year-old Jamaican female professional what she knows about ganja and she may well respond: “very little” since she has never tried it. “I think there’s high grade and low-grade ganja. Beyond that. I really don’t know”, she might add. There is also the gentleman in his mid-50s, Sunday school teacher who says he grew up in a community in which the farmers interspersed ganja with their regular crops; but that he has never smoked a spliff.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who have an ardent interest in ganja. This interest is often social as some young people bend to peer pressure. A 2016 survey conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) among 12 to 65 years-olds revealed that a very small percentage of Jamaicans start smoking ganja from as young as age 12 and that on average females start at age 18 years old compared to males at age 15 years.
NCDA research also confirmed the pattern of usage among various age groups and identified a wide range of myths surrounding ganja. These myths include the notion that ganja grew on Solomon’s grace, and that smoking it provides wisdom and “brain food” to enhance one’s learning abilities and “makes you smarter”. Others believe that incorporating the tail of a lizard in your spliff will cause mental illness. There is also the widely held view, particularly among males, that smoking ganja enhances one’s sexual performance and is not addictive.
The National Council on Drug Abuse does not support the smoking of ganja. Scientific findings indicate that ganja smoking can negatively affect the growing brain. Adolescent use for recreational purposes is therefore NOT recommended by health authorities. Additionally, The NCDA notes that although various myths regarding ganja have endured over time, they remain MYTHS since they are not grounded in science, and have no factual base.
Apart from the social interest in ganja, discussion regarding its uses and benefits are also cultural and generational. The generation use of ganja, also known as cannabis, has endured because of its perceived health benefits. As a consequence, ganja or cannabis has become the subject of serious health research in these more recent and enlightened times.
The Typical Jamaican 60 years and older will readily recall that their mother always kept a ‘little something’ in a bottle of white rum which was administered to their asthmatic sister or brother whenever he or she started wheezing.
As a child growing up, they were aware that this medicine was spoken about in hushed tones and was taken out only when needed. Once used, it was immediately returned to its place high up on the shelf out of the children’s reach. It was only as they grew older, they understood that the nameless ‘little something’ was really a sprig of ganja that had marinated for years in that bottle of rum. A half teaspoon or thereabouts, once administered, proved effective in reducing the wheezing of the asthmatic child and “cleared his or her chest” as was the expression then.
Scientific research in Jamaica is validating some of what our parents and grandparents always knew about the medicinal benefits of ganja of cannabis. True, our grandparents did not have the precise medical language that spoke to the ‘how and why’ of ganja’s efficacy in “clearing” their asthmatic child’s chest. But what they understood, for sure, was that it worked! And, with each breath of fresh air that filled their child’s lungs, they were thankful for the properties of that ‘little something’ in the bottle of white rum